Being Cold Can Mean You Have Chronic Anemia
The weather across the country has been frightfully cold as of late, including lots of snow. While it may be easy for some to keep warm, individuals with chronic anemia tend to be continuously cold, bad weather or not.
Anemia occurs when an individual's blood has a low number of red blood cells. Without enough red blood cells, the body has difficulty getting the oxygen it needs for regular body processes. The cause of an individual's anemia is dependent upon the type of anemia she or he has.
With iron deficiency anemia, there is a shortage of iron in the body and it is unable to produce enough red blood cells. This can be caused by blood loss due to “heavy menstrual bleeding, an ulcer, cancer, a polyp in the digestive system, or prolonged use of some types of drugs.”
Vitamin deficiency anemia is when an individual's diet is lacking in folate and vitamin B-12 to allow the body to properly process the iron into red blood cells. While a change in diet may help, there are some individual's whose “bodies aren't able to process” the B-12 they eat.
“Cancer, HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and other chronic inflammatory diseases can interfere with the production of red blood cells.” This is known as anemia of chronic disease.
Aplastic anemia is a “very rare life-threatening anemia caused by a decrease in the bone marrow's ability to produce red blood cells.”
Bone marrow diseases, such as leukemia, myelodysplasia, or myelofibrosis, “can cause anemia by affecting blood production in the bone marrow. The effects of these types of cancer and cancer-like disorders vary from a mild alteration in blood production to a complete life-threatening shutdown of the blood-making process.”
Hemolytic anemia is a group of conditions where red blood cells die faster than they can be replaced. “Certain blood diseases can cause increased red blood cell destruction.”
Sickle cell anemia is a condition where red blood cells are not round, but an abnormal crescent shape due to a defective form of hemoglobin. These abnormally-shaped red blood cells do not hold as much oxygen and die more rapidly than regular red blood cells.
Anemia symptoms vary depending on the cause of the anemia, but may include:
A fast or irregular heartbeat
Shortness of breath
Cold hands and feet
To determine if an individual has anemia, a doctor will order a blood test to get a count of the number of blood cells in the sample. This test, a hematocrit, will show the number of red blood cells as well as the form of the hemoglobin. Some of the red blood cells will be examined for abnormalities. From this, a doctor can interpret whether an individual has an iron deficiency, a vitamin deficiency, or other type of anemia. Additional tests may be necessary to determine the underlying cause of an individual's anemia.
The type of anemia will dictate the necessary treatment. For iron deficiency and vitamin deficiency anemias, diet changes and supplements can mitigate the problem. If an individual's anemia is caused by a chronic disease or bone marrow disease, treatment of the underlying disease may resolve the anemia. If not, then blood transfusions may be necessary.
Treatment for sickle cell anemia includes management of pain and complications from the disease. Blood transfusions may be necessary. In some cases, a bone marrow transplant may be appropriate.
Social Security Disability Benefits for Chronic Anemia
When reviewing an applicant's medical file, the Social Security Administration focuses on the applicant's “ability to adjust to the reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. A gradual reduction in red cell count, even to very low values, is often well tolerated in individuals with a healthy cardiovascular system.” To show that the anemia is a chronic condition, the individual must show that the condition has persisted for at least 3 months with medically acceptable imaging and blood tests evaluating the number of red blood cells by volume (hematocrit). In addition, the applicant must have received “one or more blood transfusions on an average of at least once every 2 months.”
Social Security Disability applications require extensive documentation on an applicant's medical condition. If you are considering applying for disability benefits, contact our experienced attorney to assist you.